Plus, how to take things less personally.
The mind is the most precious resource we have. It is the lens through which we experience every single moment of our existence.
It not only determines our inner sense of health and happiness, but also defines our relationships with the people and the world around us. But the mind is a delicate instrument—it needs to be nurtured, healthy habits need to be cultivated, and, unless we have the tools at our disposal to take care of our minds, life can very easily feel overwhelming.
So what if we learned these tools earlier? What if we taught our children the skills they needed to maintain a healthy and happy mind from a very early age? What if we gave them the tools they needed to process thoughts and regulate emotions before they’re overwhelmed by them? What if we didn’t wait for children to struggle before offering them help? In short, what if we taught the next generation how to be mindful?
When I think back to school I’m reminded mostly of chemical equations and trigonometric sums. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure those things are going to be incredibly important at some stage in my life and I should in no way be less enthusiastic about them simply because I’ve got to the age of 43 without using them. And look, if I ever get lost at sea on my surfboard, without a GPS, and happen to have a soggy map and a compass on hand, and I can actually remember how to do any of those sums, then I will no doubt be grateful when I guide myself to shore.
But as educational priorities go, what could be more important than teaching children how to easily access the qualities of calm, creativity, joy, kindness, generosity and balance in their lives? It doesn’t mean we have to lose the trigonometry, but learning simple meditation techniques and mindfulness tools will help to ensure that children have the tools that they need, not just for childhood, but for life.
It’s a curious thing…there is widespread acknowledgment that to learn a new skill we need to be taught how to do it and then practice it. It’s true of sports, music, art, cooking and just about anything else I can think of, so why is that we assume peace of mind will just happen by accident? Why do we simply hope negative emotions won’t overwhelm us, rather than just learning how to deal with them in the first place?
The mind might be delicate, but it is also incredibly responsive, changing rapidly as it adapts to training, input, and environment. The brain is laying down neural networks at an astonishing rate in the early years, with the foundations of development laid down before the age of 3 and the majority of our personality formed before the age of just 6. Of course, these things are not set in stone, and neuroplasticity (the ability for the brain to structurally adapt) later in life is very real, but it is so much harder once strong habits and behaviors have already been formed. If we teach children to meditate, we can ensure that these neural networks are of the healthy variety, making a strong foundation for a happy life.
That’s why we’re launching Headspace for Kids. It’s been a long time coming—I know. It’s the most requested topic from the community, and has been ever since we launched six years ago. It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to work with the schools, teachers, parents and children who have helped us on this journey and our heartfelt thanks to all of you involved. We are also grateful to our research partners around the world who we will be working with closely to better understand how mindfulness impacts the lives of young people, and what we can do better to make meditation an indispensable tool for the next generation.
To try Headspace for Kids with the kids in your life, check it out here.